Tonawanda man believes family heirloom painting is a Michelangelo

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Martin Kober grew up believing that the small, wood paneled painting in his family’s home was a work of Michelangelo.

The family even referred to the painting as “The Mike”. It was given to Kober’s family in the 18th century, and the family has been trying to get it recognized by the artistic community for generations.

So far, they haven’t been successful.

Kober said that his earliest member of the painting was in a family home in Syracuse, where it hung on the opposing wall from the main entrance.

According to Kober, the painting can be traced via documents from a German baroness to his great-great-grandfather’s sister-in-law. Since it came into his family’s possession, they’ve all been certain it’s a painting by Michelangelo.

Kober inherited the painting in 2002. He’s been working for the last 15 years to convince art historians that it’s the real deal. Kober, a retired pilot, has gotten support from an Italian art historian. The historian backed up Kober’s claims in a book. So far, however, no U.S. scholars have fully supported the idea that the painting is a Michelangelo.

Kober says he often hears from art historians that Michelangelo didn’t paint during the period in which the painting was created, although he points to documents with mention of the words “dipinto” and “quadro” to describe work just like his painting.

Professor William Wallace of Washington University in St. Louis, a well-respected Michelangelo expert, is intrigued by the painting and said he thinks it could be the work of Michelangelo’s inner circle, although he said that no one can be certain yet.

“There’s no scientific way to determine this, it’s a matter of opinion of numerous numbers of scholars,” Wallace said.

Kober believes if and when his painting is authenticated, it will be worth far more than even Leonardo DaVinci’s “Mona Lisa”, and says he won’t quit.

“I would like an honorary art degree from somebody just based on the work and effort I’ve put in,” Kober said.

If the painting is recognized, he said he’d like to have it purchased by a local museum. Until then, it’s locked in a vault in an unknown but secure location. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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